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May 31, 2024

Honoring Dr. Jerry Gross’ Memory with Dr. Joshua Grolman’s Research

Dr. Jerry Gross and Dr. Joshua Grolman

Materials scientist Joshua Grolman, PhD, brings a deep understanding of the physical mechanics of cells to his cancer-fighting research. At his lab at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Assistant Professor Grolman and his team examine how cells’ morphology – their shape, size, structure, and organization – influences their interactions with other cells and with the extracellular matrix, a network of proteins and carbohydrates that supports and cushions cells. Though microscopic, the physical shape of cells and their interactions play important roles in maintaining healthy tissues and in determining the progression of diseases, including cancer. “The interactions,” says Grolman, “are quite complicated and require applying the concepts of material science to basic biological research.”

While we know that the shape and function of cells is influenced by interactions with other cells and with signaling molecules and the bonds that adhere them to the extracellular matrix, much less is understood about the specific levels of force involved in these movements. Grolman’s lab is developing new ways to measure the precise forces cells exert and experience. Using super-resolution imaging of live cells, the team examines nano-scale stress and strain on cells in 3D, building new, microscopic architectures out of chains of large molecules called polymers, which can each contain thousands of atoms. According to Grolman, his lab’s work draws upon “our experiences in tissue characterization of real tissues in different disease states, coupled with polymer synthesis, to create new and exciting types of biomaterials for modeling and therapeutic purposes.”

This image is of molecular-level force sensors that the Grolman Lab made to work with proteins. The sensors will eventually be used to measure cancer tissue growth. This work is included in ICRF’s Dr. Jerry Gross Memorial Research Career Development Award that Joshua Grolman, PhD, received.


Grolman’s particular medical interests include better understanding preterm birth, wound healing, and cancer cell behavior. He believes that increased knowledge of the specific ways cells physically interact is a key part of developing more effective treatments, maintaining that “understanding the interactions between the surrounding biomaterials and cells like this is critical if we want to develop new cancer immunotherapy treatments.”

In recognition of the promise of Grolman’s work, in September 2021, ICRF awarded his lab the Dr. Jerry Gross Memorial Research Career Development Award. Endowed by a $1 million bequest from Dr. Jerry Gross, the award supports the work of early-career scientists who share Gross’s vision of cancer cures coming from Israel. Gross, a New Yorker born in Queens to parents who survived the Holocaust, was devoted to the Jewish community and to Israel specifically, as demonstrated by his cancer-fighting gifts to ICRF and other related causes. Those who knew him describe him as humble and generous, a joyful man whose two-decade battle with cancer inspired charitable gifts intended to spare others the suffering he had experienced. Like Gross, Grolman also enjoys a joyful life beyond his research, alongside his wife and their two children. Grolman is an avid cyclist, an aspiring chef, and a woodworker. Through Grolman’s enthusiasm for his research and his zest for a life well lived, Dr. Gross’s vision of a better future for Israelis and the world lives on.


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